Have you ever hung up the phone with a Charter rep, kicked back in your chair, and wondered if that same brand of customer service could be brought to cell plans? Well, for all three people who have, I’ve got some good news.
Charter CEO Tom Rutledge confirmed during the company’s Q3 earnings call that Charter is on track to launch wireless service in the first half of 2018. The actual service will use Verizon’s cell network and Charter’s network of Wi-Fi hotspots, but all the customer service and plans will be handled by Charter.
It’s exactly the same kind of MVNO operation as Comcast has recently pursued with Xfinity Mobile. In Comcast’s case, service is also on Verizon’s network, but only customers who subscribe to one of Comcast’s other services are able to buy a plan. It’s unclear if Charter’s network will face the same restrictions.
With any luck, Charter’s MVNO operation will copy something else from Comcast: pricing. Xfinity Mobile offers a mix of cheap unlimited or pay-as-you-go plans that offer significant savings over Verizon’s own plans. It’s a good deal: $45 per month for unlimited data, which includes unlimited talk, text, and a soft cap of 20GB of data. It’s much better than Verizon’s pricing for unlimited, which goes from $75 to $85 for one line, depending on what features you want. There’s also a pay-what-you-want $12-per-GB option.
FCC filings also indicate that Charter may have bigger ambitions than just MVNO operations. “The wireless component of Charter’s network is transitioning from a nomadic Wi-Fi network to one that that supports full mobility by incorporating Wi-Fi with multiple 4G and 5G access technologies to deliver a seamless connectivity experience,” Charter said in the filing. “In navigating this transition, Charter is emphasizing an ‘Inside-Out’ strategy, focusing first on wireless solutions inside the home and office, and then eventually expanding outdoors.”
Of course, now that the Sprint T-Mobile merger is called off, Charter might want to consider picking up a wireless network of its own.